Jubilant campaigners say Llanishen Reservoir should now be refilled and turned into a country park Cardiff can be proud of.
The call came after the Welsh Government threw out a US energy firm’s plans to turn the site into a housing estate.
In a David versus Goliath battle, residents and members of the Reservoir Action Group have campaigned for more than a decade to stop Western Power Distribution’s plans to build 324 homes.
The plans have been the subject of numerous public inquires and planning decisions and cost Cardiff council more than £800,000 in legal and planning fees.
Yesterday, they were thrown out by Welsh Government minister Carl Sargeant.
He found the proposals would satisfy key policy tests in protecting open space and helping meet the current housing shortage.
But he said that did not outweigh the harm to the character and appearance of the area owing to the proposed access arrangements and the substantial and irreversible diminution of the reservoir as a heritage asset.
Reservoir Action Group chairman Richard Cowie said he was delighted with the news.
But campaigners will have to wait and see how WPD reacts to the decision. Yesterday it said it had no comment to make on the decision.
Mr Cowie said: “This is the second time the Welsh Government ministers have rejected planning appeals by WPD, and Western Power should accept that the local community does not want their proposed development, Cardiff council does not want it and the Welsh Government does not want it.
“If they have any respect for the democratic process they should stop trying to force an unwanted development on the people of Cardiff and ensure that the refilling of Llanishen reservoir begins immediately.
“Instead, WDP could do much to restore relationships with the local community if they were to make this land available for development into a country park in order to allow the people of Cardiff to enjoy this magnificent example of Victorian civil engineering in its original setting, as well as protecting a nationally important site for biodiversity.”
He went on to thank local councillors who backed the campaign to save the reservoir, a Grade II-listed site of special scientific interest.
Former group chairman Andrew Hill said he was delighted by the news.
“We were granted listed status in 2009 and I think this helped a lot when it came to this decision and the fact it is listed means that it will be difficult for homes to be built there in the future,” he said.
“Studies have found that refilling the reservoir will not be harmful, and our main drive will now be to bring the area back into public ownership and turn it into a greenfield area that can be enjoyed by all.”
He also praised the work of Ted Thurgood, who was instrumental in setting up the action group a decade ago.
Resident Digby Mansel-Edwards, 84, who has been campaigning against the plans with his wife Anne said: “They thought they could wear us down, but they didn’t know who they were dealing with.
“It would be great to see the people buying it back and see it turned back into a leisure park and see children sailing there again.”
Jenny Willott, Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, said it would have been a “disaster” for the local area if Western Power Distribution had been given the go-ahead.
She said: “Together with locals and the Reservoir Action Group, we have been fighting plans by Western Power since 2002 to protect the reservoir and the flora and fauna specific to the site, to ensure its use for future generations.
“Had they won, it would have been a disaster for the local area. I hope that Western Power finally realise that their development plans are not needed nor wanted in Cardiff.”
South Wales Central AM Andrew RT Davies added: “This is just reward for years of concerted campaigning and it seems that pressure from the Reservoir action group, residents and local Conservatives has finally paid off. It just goes to show that local voices really can have an impact.
“Hopefully this matter can now be put to bed and residents can rest assured that the developments are not going to proceed.”
Liberal Democrat assembly member for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott, joined call for WPD to immediately begin refilling the reservoir and restoring it so the community could enjoy it again.
She added: “This is great news for the residents of Cardiff and in particular those who have been fighting this for well over a decade and it just goes to show that residents voices can and are heard by the corridors of power.
“It is a shame that Welsh Government Ministers have taken so long to make this decision but now that it has been made I call on WPD to respect the wishes of the people of Cardiff and the Government and to abandon their plans to build on this area.”
A statement read to Cardiff council’s full cabinet meeting by Coun Ralph Cook said: “The council remains committed to seeking to enable a return of sailing at the reservoir. For the moment, it is necessary to consider the detail of the minister’s decision and any associated outcomes before determining the council’s best course of action in seeking to deliver its commitment.”